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American Health Worse Than Other Nations: Report

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Politicians like to tell us that America has the best health care in the world. This patriotic sentiment runs counter to innumerable studies that show Americans spend more on health care but don't get better health in return.

The latest example is a report published Tuesday by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, two entities that are part of the prestigious National Academies.

The title sort of says it all: "U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health."

The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries.

The report compares the U.S. to 16 other rich countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. To those who know, the results aren't surprising. But they are unsettling: Life expectancy is worse in the U.S. than in most of those nations; the infant mortality rate is the worst; car crashes, violence and injuries kill Americans at a faster clip than people elsewhere; obesity and diabetes are bigger problems in the U.S. And so on.

The whole report is available here and a summary via press release is here.

The New York Times highlights the fact that people younger than 50 years old fare particularly poorly in the U.S.:

Deaths that occur before age 50 accounted for about two-thirds of the difference in life expectancy between males in the United States and their counterparts in 16 other developed countries, and about one-third of the difference for females.

For older Americans and people with certain medical conditions, the news isn't as bad, the Wall Street Journal notes:

The authors noted higher survival as compared with similar countries for Americans who lived past age 75, as well as better rates of survival specifically in cases of cancer and stroke. They also noted better control of blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking for Americans.